The 10 best cardio exercises

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If, for whatever reasons, you decide to do cardio, the question may arise: what kind of cardio? We have listed the ten best options for you, from which you may be able to make a good choice, depending on your goals, possibilities and preferences.

WHAT EXACTLY IS CARDIO?

Cardio is an abbreviation of ‘cardiovascular’, which literally means ‘related to the heart and blood vessels’. Cardiovascular training, or simply ‘cardio’, therefore refers to any form of training that increases the heart rate. Slightly more practical: any form of training that is aimed at burning fat and/or improving fitness. This can be walking, cycling or swimming, but also jumping rope, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or circuit training. Cardio is therefore not a synonym for endurance sport.

IS CARDIO NECESSARY?

Everyone has their own reasons for doing cardio, but usually the (main) goal is fat loss. Now doing cardio is not strictly necessary to burn fat. A calorie-restricted diet may, in principle, suffice. Still, cardiovascular training offers its benefits. Disadvantages, as well.

Benefits of Cardio Disadvantages of Cardio
  • Makes dieting easier (you can eat more)
  • Stimulates the active metabolism
  • Increase thermogenesis
  • Increases insulin sensitivity
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Compensates for social eating and drinking moments
  • Improves fitness
  • Has various health benefits
  • Makes you hungry (compensatory food)
  • Gradually becomes less effective
  • Increases cortisol (‘stress hormone’)
  • Frequent and/or frequent cardio can be at the expense of muscle mass

WHICH EXERCISES ARE THE BEST?

In our opinion, the best cardio exercises are those that involve all major muscle groups for a longer period of time. These exercises provide the greatest increase in your maximum oxygen uptake capacity. And that’s really what cardio is all about.

We also looked at which exercises give you the greatest overall benefits. For example, walking provides you with more general benefits than cycling and swimming. A runner gets better at cycling ‘automatically’, while a cyclist and swimmer hardly get any better at running.

It never hurts to vary in training form. This is called ‘cross training’. In fact, if you’re not training for a specific sport, cross training will give you the greatest benefits.

1. RUNNING

The simplest and one of the most efficient forms of cardio is running. Preferably outside, in nature. Not on a treadmill. Because it does matter whether you move in relation to your surface or the surface in relation to you.

Running for half an hour to an hour three times a week already works wonders for your condition. Anyone who automatically thinks of endless endurance training when running is wrong. Pace running, interval training and Fartlek provide the necessary variation and keep your training fun. Fartlek, or speed game, is a playful form of training in which you constantly change speed and let the intensity of your training be determined by the terrain.

And what about ‘normal’ walking? That is also a great form of cardio, but you do not burn calories very quickly with it. Walking is ‘safe’ for preserving muscle mass, which is why this form of cardio is popular with avid bodybuilders.

2. JUMPING ROPE

Jumping rope is something for girls? Tell that to a boxer… With jumping rope, you not only work on your fitness, but you also improve your explosiveness and balance, especially with the more difficult variants. You can jump with both legs at the same time, switch legs, hop from side to side, cross your arms while jumping, jump in place while running, tap the ground with your toes or heel…

It is easy to come up with a dozen execution variants to ensure a very diverse training. And contrary to what you may think, jumping rope is not an injury prone activity at all.

3. CALISTHENICS

Calisthenics is difficult to define, but in fact it comes down to (complex) exercises where you only use your body weight. Examples of exercises that fall under this heading are burpees, jumping jacks and mountain climbers.

Our favorite are burpees. You start this standing. Next, squat down and place your hands flat on the floor, then “kick” your legs back to get into push-up position. Then push yourself up and pull your legs back under your body. From this squat position, you jump up explosively, lifting your feet off the floor. This exercise involves almost all of your joints and muscle groups. From your ankle to your shoulder joint. So a compound exercise pur sang.

4. ELLIPTICAL (CROSS) TRAINER

The elliptical (cross) trainer has now supplanted the treadmill and exercise bike as the most popular equipment for your cardio training. And not without reason. You train your lower and upper body at the same time and by paddling backwards you can use the muscles in your lower body in a different way. You can also address the muscles in a different way by adjusting the incline. By increasing the resistance you can increase the intensity of your training and work on your strength in addition to your endurance. Training at a lower resistance, on the other hand, is good for your speed.

5. ROWING MACHINE

The rowing machine or rowing ergometer is one of our favorite devices and gives you just as good training for your upper and lower body. The first part of the movement you mainly train your lower body, the second part your upper body – your back, shoulders and arms. By setting the resistance you can make it an extensive or intensive workout. Of course you can also use the device for (high-intensity) interval training.

6. BOXING

Jabs, hooks, uppercuts… Boxing’s punch repertoire can provide you with an enormously diverse cardio workout. You can spar with an opponent, train on a heavy bag or shadow boxing. And don’t think that boxing only trains your arms. The footwork is just as important and many strokes come from the legs and hips. You can also shadow box with a pair of light 1 or 2 kg dumbbells in your hands.

7. CLIMBING STAIRS

In some fitness centers you will find a step mill, or step mill. But a regular staircase is just as good, if not better. Because you work against gravity, climbing stairs is more intensive than regular walking. And of course you can make the exercise as intensive as you want. By skipping a step, you put your glutes and thighs to work extra hard. Instead of running up, you can of course also run up a flight of stairs if your fitness allows it. By walking down at your leisure, you can turn it into an intensive interval workout.

8. CLIMBING

Just as a step mill simulates climbing stairs, a ladder mill simulates climbing. The advantage of climbing compared to climbing stairs is that you also use your upper body intensively when climbing. Of course you can also ‘just’ climb in nature, but the chance that you will find a rock formation in your area is very small. Rope climbing also offers you a challenging cardio workout, where you can of course use your arms and legs or just your arms, if you are strong enough.

9. POWER/BATTLING ROPES

Due to MMA and cross-fit, the until recently unknown power or battling ropes have gained enormous popularity. Power ropes are an ideal way to work on your fitness, strength and explosiveness at the same time.

A power rope is in fact nothing more than a thick, heavy rope of 12-15 meters. All you have to do is wrap the rope around a post, pillar or tree, so that you are left with two equal halves. By gripping both ends, you can do different exercises. Such as double or alternating waves, where you wave both halves of the rope at the same time or alternately. Or slams, where you knock the rope down hard to the ground from above your head.

10. COMPOUND/COMPLEX EXERCISES

A compound exercise is an exercise that involves multiple joints, such as the squat and deadlift. But in this case, by compound exercises we mean a combination of exercises, which are performed one after the other without a break.

You have several complex exercises, with dumbbells, a kettlebell or a barbell. One of our favorite ‘complexes’ is the Bear Complex. Here you perform the following five exercises in succession: power clean, front squat, push press, back squat and again the push press. You do this seven times in a row. This is one of a total of five rounds. Heavy enough, we think.

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